CAIRO Egypt has announced a cease-fire agreement to end a week of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr said the truce would take effect at 9 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EDT.) He made the announcement alongside visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the deal, saying he had agreed after consulting with President Barack Obama.
The White House said that President Obama praised Netanyahu for agreeing to the Egyptian cease-fire plan “while reiterating that Israel maintains the right to defend itself.” It also said the United States will use the opportunity offered by a ceasefire to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza. The White House also said that the president thanked Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi for his role in the cease-fire.
Israel launched the fierce Israeli offensive in Gaza on Nov. 14 to stop months of intensifying rocket attacks. Even after the deal was announced, air raid sirens continued to wail in southern Israel.
In the last-minute burst of fire, Palestinian militants fired several bursts of rockets, Israeli authorities said. One rocket hit a house in the southern city of Beersheba, police said. No injuries were reported.
Israel launched well over 1,500 airstrikes and other attacks on targets in Gaza, while more than 1,000 rockets pounded Israel since the fighting began on Nov. 14. In all, more than 140 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, were killed, while five Israelis died in the fighting.
According to a copy of the agreement obtained by The Associated Press, Israel and all Palestinian militant groups agreed to halt “all hostilities.” For the Palestinians, that means an end to Israeli airstrikes and assassinations of wanted militants. For Israel, it brings a halt to rocket fire and attempts at cross-border incursions from Gaza.
After a 24-hour cooling off period, it calls for “opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents free movement.”
Hamas officials said details on the new border arrangements would have to be negotiated.
Israel imposed its blockade of Gaza after Hamas, a militant group sworn to Israel's destruction, seized control of the territory five years ago. It has gradually eased the closure, but continues to restrict the movement of certain goods through Israeli-controlled crossings. Among the restrictions: a near-complete ban on exports, limited movement of people leaving the territory, and limits on construction materials that Israel says could be used for military use.
The deal was vague on what limits Israel would lift, and whether Gaza's southern passenger terminal on the Egyptian border would be expanded to allow cargo to pass through as well. The deal was also unclear about a key Israeli demand for an end to arms smuggling into Gaza in tunnels underneath the border with Egypt.
Under the agreement, Egypt will play a key role. It said “Egypt shall receive assurances from each party” that they are committed to the deal.
“Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would break this understanding,” it adds. “In case of any observations, Egypt — as the sponsor of this understanding — shall be informed to follow up.”
The deal marked a key victory for Egypt's new Islamist government, which is caught in a balancing act between its allegiance to Hamas and its need to maintain good relations with Israel and the U.S. Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood.
The announcement comes hours after a bomb exploded aboard an Israeli bus near the nation's military headquarters in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, wounding 27 people.
Israeli aircraft pounded Gaza with at least 30 strikes overnight, hitting government ministries, smuggling tunnels, a banker's empty villa and a Hamas-linked media office. And it took Israel less than two hours to respond to the bus bombing with a fresh round of air strikes on the tiny Palestinian territory. As night fell in the Middle East, CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata said at least 30 shells from an Israeli warship pounded the city.
One blast the night before blew out the windows of the hotel room where D'Agata was staying in Gaza.
Militant rocket fire into Israel has killed five Israelis.
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